“This is not a dish from my childhood.
This is not won ton mein, window meats, or dim sum.
This is not fried rice, sizzling beef, or char siu bao.
Those were the Chinese of my childhood.
This is the Chinese of my rebirth.”
What do you think about Chinese food?
Cool? Not a Chinaman’s chance.
I don’t blame you. I thought so, too.
But from now on, when you think of Chinese food, I want you to picture this:
BIANG BIANG MIAN: Proof that Chinese food is cool.
AND COOL IS IMPORTANT.
Not all good food is cool.
A dish can be delicious, but not cool. You’ll eat this, then leave.
A dish can seem cool, but taste bland. That’s not real cool; it’s Instagram-cool. You’ll snap a photo, then leave. (Tomorrow, it won’t be cool any more.)
Real cool, though, you’ll lick the plate clean, then drag everyone you know to try it.
WHAT IS COOL?
It can’t be faked. If you try to be cool, you won’t be.
If you don’t try, you might be.
Authenticity is cool. When something is what it is, and doesn’t pretend to be what it’s not, that’s cool.
Utilitarian is cool. When something fulfills a need just right, it’s cool.
If something provides pleasure beyond what’s necessary for it’s utility, that’s very cool– Because it doesn’t have to, but someone cared enough to make sure it does.
(When someone genuinely cares, they’re the coolest.)
It’s cool when someone thoroughly knows their craft,
And when a craft is done with true understanding.
Cheap is cool. Expensive is not.
Rural food is cool, because it’s authentic, utilitarian, and cheap.
Rustic is cool, unless it was made by rich people to look rustic. Then it’s manufactured.
Different is cool, unless it’s only trying to be different. Then it’s the same.
Rare is cool. When something takes you by surprise and makes you go, “This is the greatest thing I never knew,” that’s cool.
– – –
Biang Biang Mian? Well, Biang Biang Mian is super cool, because it’s all of the above.
Just look at it: A noodle so long and wide that a single one is a meal; perfectly utilitarian, yet staggeringly and addictively delicious, more than anything so simple has a right to be.
It’s freaking cool!
I’m telling you, it’s named “Biang Biang” noodle because if someone cooks this for their date, it would most certainly lead to some “. . .”
INGREDIENTS: 3.5 cups bread flour (*Bread flour has more protein and will make chewier noodles) 1 cup water 1 cup peanut oil 3 tbsp chili powder 3 tbsp ground chili flakes Pinch of cumin 1 1/2 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns 2 tbsp sesame seeds 2 pinches of salt 1 pinch of MSG 1 pinch of brown sugar 3 stalks of green onion 3 cloves of garlic 6 tbsp soy sauce 3 tbsp Chinese black vinegar Half a Romaine lettuce
In a mixing bowl, combine bread flour with a pinch of salt. Stirring constantly, slowly add water until a dough begins to form. Place the dough onto a flat surface and knead until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes, until the water has absorbed evenly throughout the dough.
After 30 minutes, knead again. It should feel silky and springy.
Cut into individual portions, and roll each portion into the shape and size of a bratwurst.
Brush each bratwurst with oil to keep them from sticking and cover with cling wrap until ready to cook.
“Bianging” the Noodles:
Use a rolling pin to flatten each “bratwurst.” Hold a flattened piece at both ends and repeatedly slap it onto a flat surface to make a “biang biang” sound. The dough will stretch to become longer and thinner until it’s approximately the length and width of a belt.
In a small bowl, combine chili powder, ground chili flakes, cumin, a pinch of salt, a pinch of MSG, and a pinch of brown sugar.
With a mortar and pestle, pound Sichuan peppercorns with sesame seeds. Add these to the bowl of spices.
Finely chop green onion and garlic and keep them in a separate bowl.
In a small bowl, combine soy sauce with Chinese black vinegar.
Boil noodles for 5 minutes and strain. Blanch lettuce in the noodle water for 30 seconds.
Meanwhile, heat 1 cup of peanut oil over high heat until it smokes.
Arrange 2-3 noodles per plate. Top with the seasonings. Pour hot peanut oil over the seasonings, which will sizzle satisfyingly, caramelize the spices, and cook the onion and garlic, making them slighly crispy.
Pour 3 tablespoons of the sauce over each plate of noodles.
Serve with quick-blanched lettuce.